Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

WMC TV Pack: The Ultimate Windows Screwjob You Didn’t See Coming

Introduction
Before I go into this post, I have to explain my intentions. I respect NDAs very much, and I always have. I’ve built my career as a Microsoft commentator on acquiring as much access as possible, through playing by the “rules”. When someone asks me not to talk about something, or tells me something in confidence, most of the time I don’t blog about it.

The rule of thumb with Windows Featured Communities is, if it’s NDA, we can talk about it until Microsoft talks about it. I’m a Digital Cable Tuner (OCUR) beta tester, and as such I’ve been testing "Fiji" over the past few months. As MJ so accurately reported, Microsoft has gagged all of the (generally angry) beta testers from speaking about anything until the CEDIA conference on September 3rd. However, Microsoft released a statement on Friday about the contents of the TV Pack, as well as its distribution model, which means I can put forth my opinion on the matter without disclosing any new information. Microsoft may very well sanction me for this post (they tried to have my MVP taken away once because I *speculated* on the Diamond release, even though I had no direct knowledge about it and was not a beta tester at the time), but IMO they are about to make what could be the last mistake for the Media Center platform, and there is still time to stop it.

Please Note: This passionate rant is not directed at any of the awesome beta coordinators, PMs, or developers on WMC. They are awesome, and have done a great job with the resources they have been given. It is directed at the decision makers at the highest level who have let this mess come to pass. It's directed at the "Marketers" who think its customers are stupid. We are not.

Calling a Spade a Spade..., or "When Marketers Deceive"
The powers that be over at the eHome Product Management (that's "Marketing" for the uninitiated) are calling this the "Windows Media Center TV Pack". Calling it this would be fine if it added-on functionality to the RTM bits. But it doesn't, it completely replaces core WMC binaries. That means it's not an add-on, it is a version upgrade. But Microsoft doesn't want you to feel entitled to this upgrade, so they think by calling it something else, you'll fall for their cop-out.

But when Robbie Bach’s eHome team aligned the post-Diamond release with the next Windows release, they committed to providing regular updates to every single user, in a manner consistent with the rest of the Windows stack, ie: through upgrades via Windows Update. Whether they realized it or not, that’s the commitment they made to their customers.

When It Comes To Broadcast Media, You Are the Consumer, Not the Customer
That’s right, Microsoft… I’m talking about your *real* customers. Not OEMs who turn around and resell your product (just like end users are not DVR manufacturers' customers either). I’m talking about END USERS. You know, the people that Apple seems to have such an easy time pleasing, and the people form whom you have seen to forgotten about. Because Microsoft has decided that the “cone of silence” is the best thing for consumers, as MJ has spent so much time reporting on. The surprising part is, this cover-up isn’t coming from the Windows division, who wouldn’t even talk about Windows Vista SP1 until it was practically in the general population’s hands. Nope, this is coming from the same division that just spent a week wowing people at E3; the same people who are so eager to please with the Xbox 360 and the Zune.

If Microsoft listened to it's true customers about WMC development, this release would have:

To be fair, consumers HAVE been asking to be able to use Analog and Digital tuners together (called "heterogeneous tuning"), which is a feature that is purported to be in Fiji... (though I can't confirm or deny it), so it's not completely without input from consumers. But if you happen to own an existing HTPC with Digital Cable Tuners, and want to add an analog tuner to your rig, you're SOL

And so Microsoft has decided to go back on their word yet again, and is returning to the strategy they used with Windows XP Media Center by releasing this WMC 3.5 upgrade only for purchase on new computers. As they conveyed in their release, they think that the only people that buy new computers will be in a position to take advantage of the new features in Fiji. They’ll try to tell you that it’s all about supporting TV standards, but that is a load of garbage. It has new features and bug fixes in it, just like any other release. It has better tuner support, more options for HD users (can't talk specifics, sorry), and plenty more that the entire Windows user base should have the opportunity to take advantage of.

IMHO, The Real Reason You're Not Getting "Fiji"
AFAIK, the Windows Media Center team is the only team in the history of Microsoft NOT to have a clear upgrade path between versions, and I personally think that is ludicrous. It's not because OEMs "are best positioned to provide the testing and hardware configurations for a great customer experience", much as they would like you to believe it. The real reason you're not getting this upgrade is because WMC is the red-headed stepchild of the eHome division, and the Xbox team is the only one over there allowed to blow through piles of cash to fix every mistake or solve any problem.

Microsoft, in it's infinite wisdom and seemingly endless piles of cash, is not willing to commit the money necessary to hire enough developers, internal testers, and beta coordinating resources to write the code necessary to be able to do an in-place upgrade supportable on the millions of Vista systems out there. That's why Vista was on the market for 18 months before compatible Media Center Extenders were widely available (WTF was up with THAT??!?!), and that's why 60M+ Home Premium and Ultimate users are about to be given the proverbial shaft.

The Overlooked Incompatibility
In all the discussions that have taken place so far, no one has yet mentioned the inevitable 'customer experience": A family with an existing Vista Media Center RTM system decides to buy a new computer with a Vista Media Center "TV Pack". Because it's Windows Vista, the average consumer would expect that they would be able to watch non-DRMed content on any Media Center PC in the house. Not so with this "TV Pack", because the format for WMC-recorded content has changed from DVR-MS to WTV, meaning that older Media Centers will not be able to view the content *at all*. Not in Windows Media Player, not at all. If you don't have an Extender, you're screwed. Which leaves me to wonder, Is this the "great customer experience" Microsoft was referring to, cause it sounds pretty stupid if you ask me.

And by the way, how are add-on developers supposed to get their hands on bits to fix compatibility issues that the file format change has caused? Does Microsoft just expect them to buy new PCs? Give me a break.

My Bottom Line
Microsoft, I kept relatively quiet about the Ultimate Extras nonsense, even though I thought it was bullsh!t that Sinofsky could just go in there and cancel a feature that was supposed to deliver value to Microsoft's best customers. But now you have gone too far. If you are not going to *at the very least* provide this so-called "TV Pack" to your Ultimate customers as a function of Ultimate Extras, then maybe it's time that we, as Microsoft's true customers, should start looking at our other options for Microsoft's failure to deliver what Ultimate customers paid for. Because I have yet to see an Ultimate Extra that is worth the extra $100 I paid. Personally, I would think that committing the resources to be able to let everyone upgrade to WMC 3.5 would be a lot cheaper than the write-down involved in refunding every Ultimate user $100 (plus the legal fees of obtaining such a refund). But then again, I was never very good at math.

Oh yeah, Microsoft should also move the Media Center team out of eHome and into the Windows division. The risk of even more radio silence FAR outweighs the access to resources and test-system coverage that the Windows team has access to. And anyone who had a hand in green-lighting this completely asinine decision should be fired for gross incompetence.

So, I've ranted long enough. What, dear reader, do YOU think? I'm sure Microsoft will be paying attention to this post, so feel free to leave your comments... no registration required.

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Comments

  • Mog0 said:

    I completely agree with this post. The stuff about compatibility with new hardware is complete crap. I am in the UK and since buying a TV tuner stick for my Vista Ultimate laptop I love media center and use it extensively.

    I was looking forward to being able to upgrade to Fiji as the one thing it is really missing for me is access to the interactive content (MHEG) that is available on every digital tuner box and TV on the market. Fiji has this added but now they're saying I have to buy a new machine to get it. MHEG is completely software based, it has no hardware requirements whatsoever beyond what is required to watch the digital TV channels in the first place.

    My laptop is a fully specced Dell XPS which cost me £2300 (about $4600) and I am not yet ready to upgrade. I'm certainly not spending that kind of money to get a software update!!!!

    I've already been screwed with the Ultimate Extras debacle and now they are doing it again.

    Mog

    August 11, 2008 4:00 AM
  • surilamin said:

    Simply unbelievable, I've been reading about this mess on Thurrott's and Mary Jo's blog and was wondering why you hadn't chimed in.  For Microsoft to screw over Ultimate customers this much, leaves me (a home premium person) feel very good.  I'm glad I did not spend the extra money to get it, which I had seriously contemplated doing when buying my new laptop about a year ago.  Ultimate customers are generally Microsoft's most loyal customers, and its simply appalling how they could give them the cold shoulder again and again.

    It would even be better if Microsoft allowed people to at least buy the upgrade, instead of only releasing it to OEMs only.  Oh well, I am sure I will find a leaked version somewhere...

    August 11, 2008 7:14 AM
  • Rob Cannon said:

    I think that Microsoft has neglected WMC enough that it is a nearly dead product.  I have moved to DirectTV and WMC offers me nothing there.  I currently use WMC to view Netflix shows via the vmcNetflix app, but that will go away this fall when the XBox supports it directly.  At that point, I will have no further use for WMC.  It's a shame because it is a great platform that has just been negelcted.

    August 11, 2008 7:37 AM
  • Bob Cronin said:

    I played a bit with WMC after I got Vista Ultimate, but since there was no easy way for me to interface any of my PC's to my digital cable system, I pretty much gave up on it (and got TiVo HD's instead). I was going to try to use WMC for Internet video (video podcasts and the like) but didn't want to buy an Xbox as an extender (I'm a PC gamer, not console, and the Xbox 360 is way too loud anyway, so even if I was thinking about getting one just as an extender, the noise level made that out of the question). The 3rd party extenders from Dlink and LinkSys are a joke. Way overpriced and well, I've just not had that great a support experience with either company over the years, so it was not an attractive option. So, I got a cheap AppleTV instead and it works fine for what I need.

    My point is, I guess at this point I really don't care what happens with WMC. It does rankle somewhat that the version contained within my Vista Ultimate PC's is going to be abandoned, but honestly that's just another reason (in the already long list of reasons) that I won't be using it anyway. I'm sure if MS had a clue WMC could have been a contender (and IMO neither Apple nor TiVo are *that* much better, so if they would just focus a bit on doing it right I think they may still have a chance, but this FiJi situation makes it clear that they simply haven't got a clue, or don't care, or both).

    August 11, 2008 8:55 AM
  • Mogly said:

    So true... the big problem with the update is that MS creates a version mess. The new file format not being supported on "old" Vista SP1 machines is ludacris.... The only way to tell if you are running TV Pack is by checking a version number anyway - at least a KB article says so. This is a mess for the end user that has more than one computer at home - please, Microsoft, learn that a computer is not a lonely island but should be a connected experience.....

    August 11, 2008 8:56 AM
  • Matthew Duncan said:

    I guess this is the final clean-up process of the great Microsoft enema "the WOW".

    It's appropriate as Microsoft continues to push out sh*t to the world at large - most of which are so fed up with the Redmond giant that they want to throw new hardware away which they had to purchase in order to support the "best MS OS yet" but can't re-use if they try to downgrade the OS to XP (sneaky how they somehow tailored the drivers so damn specific that even with a new HDD and drivers cloned from an IDENTICAL configuration lucky enough to have been born XP) -- the downgrade still leaves some basic hardware functionless -- I'm dying to know who masterminded that miracle.

    So the decision to only release FIJI through OEM makes perfectly clear sense.

    As with VISTA - we must all pay to Microsoft - and the vendors. They keep getting richer and we keep getting screwed. Has anyone looked to see if someone from the Redmond "decision making" process is a major shareholder or directly linked to the lucky OEM's or hardwareproduction industry? Cause somewhere in all this - SOMEONE ON THE INSIDE IS PROBABLY IN BOTH BEDS AND IS GETTING REALLY RICH> AND THE REST OF THE WORLD IS GETTING REALLY SCREWED.

    But what do I know?

    *the only reason to purchase Vista was to buy a new laptop/desktop...but their "best operating system yet" was to good to utilize existing hardware.

    *from the initiating post, FIJI benefits would reach many layers of their customers - and not having it will also affect many customers - who will ultimately have to purchase new hardware out of their sheer frustration stemming from incompatibility issues from THE SAME DAMN VENDOR WHO MAKES THE PRODUCT in an attempt to save their sanity.

    Microsoft = hardware purchase........

    Thanks guys, next time can I choose the person from Redmond who screws me? Cause the current one smells like sh*t........................

    August 11, 2008 9:04 AM
  • CyberK said:

    Great post!

    I've been using the XPMC on a dedicated PC (no keyboard, no mouse) since the day it was available to non-OEM. When the Vista came out, I converted this machine to use the VMC (Ultimate). I've been using this setup to watch and record TV for more than 4 years now.

    Fortunately, the whole TV industry evolved since then and now provides HD at a reasonable cost for everyone.

    Unfortunately at the same time, Microsoft failed to identify and recognize this trend and actively refused to upgrade the MediaCenter platform in order to have its CLIENTS to benefit from these advancements. By standing behind this platform, I am now locked-up in a less than desirable situation where I can't record HD signals because Microsoft decided that the codec that would have solved the problem would not be included in this "update".

    There is a clear lack of vision in place right now in this group and they completely lost contact with the primary interest: their customers. One of Microsoft's most successful and innovative product is clearly going down the drain and will soon be overpassed by its competitors. What a waste! Will they ever figure out why Apple is so successful right now?

    Watch it Microsoft! When faithful clients like me get pissed off, its a very bad sign!

    August 11, 2008 9:17 AM
  • Ron said:

    1000% agree!

    I was speechless this wasn't a free upgrade.

    I can't imagine MS thinks people will buy new PCs just for this upgrade. I bought Vista Ulimate in hopes of getting updates like these for free.

    I love WMC - but now I am seriously thinking of leaving it behind. It has no place in being a seperate OEM only release.

    August 11, 2008 9:28 AM
  • DF said:

    Completely believable. Once again, Microsoft reminds me of the old Lilly Tomlin skits from Saturday night live- In the skits, she was satirizing the phone company prior to its break up -"We don't care, we don't have to" was her feigned phone company littany. Delightful irony- ATT was another company that needed to be broken up to help bring competition and innovation back to that industry.

    August 11, 2008 9:46 AM
  • Jim Harris said:

    Easy fix: Get a fairly decent set of PC hardware (generally, anything that would run Vista _without_ Aero is fine) and install (free) Ubuntu "Hardy Heron" (8.04.1+) LTS (Long-Term Support) and then add (free) Mythbuntu Control Centre (Ubuntu's snazzy version of MythTV) and set up as many different kinds and qty of tuners as you like. Get Program Schedules data (human and machine-readable) over the internet at USD $1.67 per month from SchedulesDirect. Amazing recording and playback quality and options, way better than any TiVO I've heard of. Save almost enough on M$ software to buy the hardware.

    For those unwilling to try this at home, pre-packaged hardware+software systems are available, with support.

    I've been doing this for a long time now, and nobody has even thought about how to screw me on it. More fun, less FUD and crap.

    Enjoy.

    Jim

    August 11, 2008 9:59 AM
  • STAN said:

    Their is one basic business saying "The customer is always right, even when he is wrong".  When you lose sight of this basic idea you heading down the tubes.

    August 11, 2008 10:15 AM
  • David Hays said:

    I don't have Vista yet, so maybe they will have some of the kinks worked out by the time I upgrade, or maybe the successor will be available then.  The XP MC upgrade was available form Ms.  I have installed it myself, with no problems, its support of Digital TV is not as great as desired, could be my antenna system.  I do not subscribe to cable or satellite tv, just use an outside antenna, with so many over the air stations available, I don't really need either, except during baseball season, or to get the Public TV station Create, our PTV station has it only available on Cox Cable.  (They ran out of bandwith when all 5 digital stations went to HD)

    I haven't recorded anything lately, used to record some.  Like MC very much, was reason to purchase current model of PC, wanted MC capabilities.

    August 11, 2008 10:19 AM
  • Well said!

    But hey, at least they gave the TV Pack RTM to Chunk for safe keeping.

    bjdraw.com/.../thanks-to-microsoft-for-giving-the-tv-pack-to-chuck

    August 11, 2008 10:56 AM
  • Peter said:

    There is an option; I have been bouncing back and forth between WMC and MythBuntu for a year now, utilizing both but really wanting to once and for all consolidate down to on platform.  There are so many things I love about WMC and I was so close to ditching MythBuntu.  There were a few nagging issues that I figured would be fixed in the next upgrade.  Well, they weren't and now I find that I don't get the upgrade anyway. MythBuntu on the other hand has been upgraded twice durring this period and even as a Linex novice I have made it work with no problem.  Guess my new tuner and TB drive will be hooked up to my old pentium box running Ubuntu.  At least I share some of the video with windows using 3rd party players.

    August 11, 2008 11:01 AM
  • captain_caveman2k said:

    This just about sums up what we have all been saying (ranting on about) for the last couple of months over at The Green Button.

    The update has now been leaked and an in place upgrade can be performed so there is no "technical reason" why it should be OEM only. However, use caution and bare in mind that you're on your own if you do screw your system up :(

    Great article and many thanks for being another voice.

    August 11, 2008 11:03 AM
  • GG said:

    I think I'll take another look at the Apple website!

    August 11, 2008 11:04 AM
  • Windows Media Center said:

    Microsoft doesn't give a sh*t about endusers, never has - _except_ if the enduser happens to be their direct customer, as is case for the Xbox 360. The Xbox 360 isn't sold through OEMs, but rather directly to endusers, that's why Microsoft has to please the enduser there.

    But as far as Windows and especially Media Center is concerned, Microsoft *never* cared about what the enduser wants. It's always about doing the minimum possible to get the OEMs to buy it. Microsoft loves to take about "we want enduser feedback" and "quality driven releases" - but they're always lying. They only listen to OEM feedback and the release is driven by the upcoming holidy season.

    That's why even in the *sixth* version, the product still sucks. That's perfectly in line with Microsoft's business model: Make minimum steps to minimize development costs and ensure there's always plenty left to do for the next version. Have a new product version every year so that no Media Center PC can last longer than two years. OEMs love that model, too. And who cares about the disgruntled customers who bought expensive devices such as the first Media Center Extenders or Portable Media Centers? Microsoft certainly doesn't. They're not in the business of longterm enduser satisfaction. In fact, they're not in the business of enduser satisfaction at all. Welcome to the world of Microsoft products!

    August 11, 2008 12:12 PM
  • Bill said:

    Totally agree!  

    I was never a supporter of the original Media Center for the very reason that I didn't believe in the concept of being locked into a static OEM configuration.  Even though I was very much interested in the Media Center technology, when it was time to buy a new PC, I opted for XP Pro over Media Center Edition.  

    When Vista Home Premium and Ultimate promised to offer Media Center technology without locking you into a specific OEM configuration and without forcing you to use a different support mechanism (not to mention not forcing you to purchase a new computer), I jumped right onto Vista Ultimate.  If fact, this was one of the main reasons that I switched to Vista rather than staying on Windows XP.  While I am a DirecTV subscriber, I have enjoyed using Media Center with terrestrial HD programming as well as for the non-TV related features that it offers.  

    I figured that DirecTV compatible PC tuners and/or DirecTV STB-to-PC (e.g. HDMI) interfaces would eventually make their way to market and that once that happened I would simply purchase such a device and go on my merry way with the ability to use DirecTV with Vista Ultimate.  While I knew all along that there was a possibility that no such device/connectivity would ever emerge, I never anticipated that there could be a situation where the capabilities might become available but that I would have to purchase a new computer in order to get the _software_ bits.  Now, I'm not suggesting that this is the current situation (apparently DirecTV support is still not available); however, I am suggesting that this situation now seems possible if not even likely, based on the new (everything old is new again) direction of Media Center.  

    The point is that my expectation has been that any new Media Center features/functionality/capability would be offered/delivered/supported in the same manner as the rest of the Windows Vista operating system.  Since Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate include Media Center as part of those respective generally available O/S releases, this seems like a reasonable expectation.  I would have even understood it if Microsoft had decided to wait until the next service pack or even the next major release of Windows (e.g. Windows 7) to upgrade Vista's Media Center component.  But, to tie the upgrade to a hardware purchase is ludicrous; it's just a bad plan (or lack thereof.)  The next thing you know, we'll have to purchase new computer hardware in order to get the next version of Internet Explorer or an update to Notepad or a bug fix for Media Player.  

    This latest strategy puts Windows Vista's Media Center back into the same category as the old Windows XP-based Media Center:  Only available with a new PC, Locked-down OEM-specific configuration, Divergent support mechanism, Not available to current users of the technology (i.e. entire Vista Home Premium and Vista Ultimate installed base), etc.  Actually, to be fair, at least with Windows XP Media Center Edition you knew what you were getting yourself into on the front-end, but with Vista's Media Center it is purely bait and switch.  

    I have been a big Microsoft supporter over the years, and I have given them lots of my money.  I have also directly influenced many others to purchase Microsoft products over the years, but if this is going to be their new means of doing business then I will have to start looking at alternatives.  To say that I am disappointed with Microsoft's decisions is an understatement of gigantic proportion.  

    August 11, 2008 12:24 PM
  • Glen said:

    I am very disappointed with Microsoft on their "non-updating" of media center to handle the most popular standards of the day.  This release should have included VC1/h264, bluray, and flash video support.  I can understand why they don't want flash video but to ignore consumers will be their downfall.

    August 11, 2008 12:54 PM
  • Jacob said:

    I've been using MCE since version 2004 and it's been one of the most exciting products I've seen and used since. I've even gotten a few friends to set up their own dedicated Media Center machines to make their home theater setup complete. Recently switching to a HDTV setup, this latest update is a huge slap in the face.

    Media Center, IMHO, has been one of Microsoft's greatest original concepts I've seen in quite some time. It'd be a shame for them to cripple it with this "OEM" BS and hurt me, the Not-An-Idiot-Customer.

    This is bad enough, but if Microsoft announces that the DirecTV update is OEM only, they've lost their biggest fan.

    August 11, 2008 1:00 PM
  • I started working on the rant I posted last night almost two weeks ago, when Microsoft released the bits

    August 11, 2008 3:36 PM
  • senthil kumar said:

    I fully agree with you

    August 11, 2008 7:46 PM
  • After reading this articles for the 4th time I finally understand 80% of the contents and I cannot help but agree to this articles - at least on the part where it is not so technical as I'm not an IT genius my self.

    I own Vista Ultimate and the Media Centre is definately useless for me. I do have a little peep on it but in South East Asia, we don't really get this so called digital tv service thru internet or computer as our internet connection is so lousy if compared to Japan and South Korea.

    One thing for sure, after reading this article, it convinced me a lot to finally remove this bullshit Media Centre and hopefully by doing so I can save some HDD space. I've been thinking a lot about this but I was uncertain for most of the time... but now I can see clearly that it is OK to remove this stupid Media Centre.

    John

    August 11, 2008 9:23 PM
  • mga said:

    Thanks for the insight into the current & future MCE world.  After using MCE for three years (XPMCE & Vista Ult), I left it about a year ago for two TivoHD's.   Too bad MS is doing this to its customers.  Wonder if Apple is going to swoop in now.  

    August 12, 2008 12:13 AM
  • Jim said:

    I had recently purchased all the parts to assemble a Vista Media Center PC to replace my aging ReplayTV which still works great. I guess those will parts will sit on the shelf now.

    As a 20+ year MS developer who has even had dinner with Steve Sinofsky and been on private beta test for god knows how many MS products I don't know what in hell MS is thinking here in pulling this second major screw job on their customers. I have to think I am about the most loyal customer MS could have and they have totally pissed me off with this decision.

    After the Windows Vista Ultimate screwup they have now guaranteed that this die hard Window developer will be buying a new MacBook Pro as my next development computer and using my existing MacMini with EyeTV and an AppleTV to view the shared media.

    It pisses me off because I had invested in the HP MediaSmart Server and was ready to invest in the new HP extender with hopes that MS would let Media Center evolve into what is should have been, the best and most powerful part of Windows Vista. Instead, MS has taken the part of Vista that worked the best for me in the entire scheme of my home and gutted it.

    Congratulations Microsoft. I miss Bill Gates already. Fooled once, shame on me. Fooled twice, shame on you and goodbye to this 20 year customer... unless you do the right thing. Which given current management probably will not happen since buying other companies seems to be the focus of management at this point in time.

    August 12, 2008 12:48 AM
  • George said:

    The only thing good about microslop is that they know how to make most all of us pay for buggy versions of it's operating systems and then upgrade to the next version for more money. Just another reason to leave microslop.  We pay to get a working operating system and all we get are patches on top of patches.  Even before the bugs are out of one version we're offered a newer system with more features for more money.  Then the cycle repeats it's self.  I wish I had gone to the freeware version of linux when OS2 stopped being worked on.  I kick myself in the butt as I knew in the long run that microslop would end up being a big pain in the toosh.

    So, for me, it's Ubuntu (or possibly someday another version of linux).  Ubuntu 64bit is on this computer now and I couldn't be happier.  No paying for upgrades, less bugs, faster development turnovers, most any program type you need is free, and the big reason to change was NO MORE BS from MicroSlop!

    The proceeding rant is just my opinion.  I may be wrong (according to some who love to keep shelling out good money for crap filled with crap), but I still own it and stand by it.

    George

    August 12, 2008 3:40 AM
  • Jay said:

    What about a class action lawsuit against MS for it's lack of follow-through on promises made to Vista Ultimate buyers?

    August 12, 2008 2:20 PM
  • Well Jay, that's what I was alluding to at the end of the column, but I don't know that it needs to go that far yet. I think MS should be given the opportunity to correct this problem first.

    Besides, somehow I don't think MS would be interested in giving me any more information EVER if I was sited as the cause for a lawsuit.

    August 12, 2008 2:42 PM
  • MikeM said:

    Good info to know...  Looks like I'll be on MCE 2005 for a while longer.

    I've been a user since MCE2004.  I upgraded to MCE2005 and held there, tried Vista ultimate but my tuner wasn't supported.  Why should I upgrade perfectly good gear when the functionality remains basically the same????

    Since I'm already a switcher (new MBP 17") the only reason I haven't completely switched is because of the My Movies add-on.  My HP z545 gear is getting tired.  I'm just waiting for Steve to tweak Apple TV.

    August 12, 2008 11:08 PM
  • I wonder how much trouble MY comments are going to get me into...let's have a go at it, shall we?

    (The following comments are from me, and do not reflect the sentiments of Robert McLaws)

    Microsoft - The only chance you have to redeem yourselves and not sow the seeds of a major customer-loyalty meltdown is the following:

    1) FIX WMC "Fiji" so that there IS NO DIFFICULTY in compatability with WMC / Diamond and Fiji

    2) FIX WMC "Fiji" so that there IS NO DIFFICULTY in compatability with WMC / Diamond and Fiji

    3) FIX WMC "Fiji" so that there IS NO DIFFICULTY in compatability with WMC / Diamond and Fiji

    For good measure, do the following:

    1) FIX WMC & "Fiji" so your loyal customers who happen to have XPMC-compatable Extenders like the HP X5000 Extender won't have to add more toxic chemicals to landfills or streams & rivers in China & Taiwan.

    It's truely sad when someone such as I (one of the most loyal Microsoft users around) is actually thinking that MythPC or Apple TV is becoming more and more acceptable.

    In conclusion, this has really soured me on WMC. I'll begrudgingly continue to use it, but to see what MIGHT be possible from the folks at 1 Microsoft Way and then see that pissed away because some marketing twit wants to aim this segment into another direction (read "cash cow") and capitalize on the upwardly-mobile-vastly-disposable-income segment instead of the people who have shown their loyalty over the decades.

    Maybe what we're experiencing is "dogfood in reverse"?

    --Scott Kindorf

    August 13, 2008 3:52 AM
  • pip said:

    I have a vista ultimate 64 PC and 2 xbox 360 using as a media center extender. So i need to use the media center. If this was not the case i would switch to media portal. I'm really disaponted at microsoft and the whole vista. I need vista to be compatible with most games, software and hardware. Else i would switch to linux or mac os. I think it would be beter for the consumers if there was a other operating system that has it all and more then vista. I would uninstall vista in a heartbeat and go to the other operating system. I can't understand the dicision that microsoft are making. The see VMC as the lowest priority. But for consumers this is have the highest priority to buy vista ultimate. To be sure you get all the VMC updates for free. The took more then 2 years and this is what we get?!? What a ripp-off. And we even can't get it, because it's only for OEM. My PC is just 3 months old with vista ultimate installed and i need to buy a new one to get the Media center TV pack 2008. Ooooh, sure microsoft. My money is burning in my pockets. I just want to buy a new PC with vista ultimate installed every time you make a new upgrade like office, windows media player, Ooooh, and the new internet explorer 8. Does this also need a new PC?!? Can i replace my PC about every half year? I already installed a a RTM from internet, but i removed it. It added almost nothing, only teletext was back for my floppyDTV cable. It crashed my computer many times, because my processor worked overtime. Later i founded out why. It is a 64 bits AMD TV pack. And i have intel.

    August 13, 2008 8:34 AM
  • FNash said:

    Grea post.  I agree totally as well.  It leaves people like me out in the cold.  I don't buy anything OEM except laptops.  I would rather build the system I want, which allows me to remove the already good RAM, hard drives, video, sound, etc from previous PC and move it to the new one I'm building.  Now, just because I am smart enough to do these things for myself, I get shafted by MS by not being offered the ability to install the latest WMC for myself.  Now, that's just plain rude!

    August 14, 2008 7:45 AM
  • John said:

    Imaging my suprise when 500 gigabytes of expensive videos on an external hard drive became blocked by the blue screen of DRM death. This happened because my system hard drive died, and I replaced it. I thought it was safe on an external drive. Now it is full of unreadable files. The Vistal Ultimate DRM system is crap, worthless, buggy, and only hurts the honest people. Pirates will laugh at it. I paid for two versions of Vista Ultimate. What a waste. Just now I went into the services.msc and permamently disabled my media center forever. I will go to a DRM free PVR somewhere else. Forget Vista Media Center. The DRM is dangerously unstable and renders perfectly legal files completely and permanently dead.

    John.

    August 14, 2008 5:40 PM
  • Charlie K said:

    The Vista "Windows Media Center" is a very bad application suite from the usability standpoint. As far as usefullness, it can be compared with another Microsoft past failure, "Bob"

    The refusal of Microsoft to include clear Quam Cable support will kill the media center.  

    At the current time, OEMs are more than doubling the cost of systems that have no additions other than a TV card (est street price ~$150) and the necessary software and BIOS mods to make the system compliant with all the requirements for full digital and analog TV use.

    First, the FCC OK's the use of the "broadcast flag", which, since compatable equipment is not generally available for sale to the consumer, locks the cable customer into rental fees, and prevents the keeping of a full resolution copy.

    Next, Microsoft has obviously jumped on the make more money from the consumer with hype, and deliver reduced content wagon .  (Vista & Fax, now reduced feature TV capability. What next?)

    August 16, 2008 5:37 AM
  • William said:

    Well.  Shocking that you cannot stream DVDs to media extenders.  Presently I have a collection of DVD's on my hard drive (.vobs) in VIDEO_TS folders.  I disovered a little work around that enables me to use WMP11 to stream DVDs to my PS3.  I just use a join program to join the .vobs into one file and then rename that file .MPG.  Hey presto I can stream the DVD.  Unfortunately it causes problems with lack of chapters and fast forwarding, but if you just want to watch a DVD from start to finish it works perfect.

    I really don't understand why they wish to cause people these kinds of problems (not being able to stream DVD's)??  Its obvious that they have designed it to be user unfriendly.  You can rename a .vob as .mpg and stream that, so why not just enable the streaming of .vobs?  

    This kind of attitude makes people want to break the law by turning to torrents and getting divx versions of their films.  (On my machine I can download a film quicker than I can convert one of my original DVDs into divx, you see where I am coming from...)

    What I want is to be able to stream my DVD collection to any TV in the house with the minimum of fuss, likewise with any recorded TV show.  It should just record what I ask it to.  Verbatim.  And then play it back when I want.  It is not upto Microsoft if I am breaking any laws by doing this.  That is my choice.  And if there are any laws that are preventing me from doing this, they need to be scrapped.

    August 16, 2008 3:09 PM
  • sharkboy said:

    I think Microsoft is keeping this quiet because it is not fully baked and they do not want to create a negative media buzz for a work in progress. I think that they learned their lesson from Vista. The Vista beta experience was horrible. Based on the Betas it was something to stay away from. It was slow and unstable and did not seem to give you much in return. The Vista RTM on the other hand is not so bad. It is faster then XP on all of the systems where I have dual boot and there is allot of value. Overall 100% better then XP especially on 64-bit. If they had not allowed the betas out to the general public they would have had a much more positive launch.

    You job as a beta tester (or User Acceptance Tester) is to try this out and communicate it's short comings to Microsoft. If the product sucks, let them know. If they get allot of negative feedback they can either fix the product or cut their losses and dump it.

    BTW

    What I would like to see with Media Center is

    - Sync with Zune rather then having to the use the Zune App.

    - Verizon Fios support (they do not have program guides for Fios which means I can not use the Media Center UI for changing channels)

    August 18, 2008 9:28 AM
  • Alex G said:

    After reading all of the blog posts and discussions about this blunder, I have come to the decision that I won't be using WMC anymore, MS simply does not care at all about what the end user wants.  MS is a giant, they have the power to tell media companies how their content will be handled, but they are too worried about not upsetting those content providers.  I will switch over to mediaportal or SageTV or maybe even scrap my Vista HTPC and go mac.  I was really excited for DirecTV support, but if its exclusion from this update is truly due to a strategic decision, I am done.  

    August 19, 2008 11:20 AM
  • John,

    ClearQAM support is comming in the future, watch this space. Also, there will be news on Media Center DRM in September. Its good news, I promise.

    August 23, 2008 1:32 PM
  • pip said:

    And now microsoft is contracting Sienfeld to make a campaign so that people feel better about vista. Is it not better to stop making stupid decision to make media center TV pack a oem only and leave HDTV H264, DVB-C for europe, and DirecTV out. That really gives me a bad taste for Vista. Come on Microsoft. Get with the program and understand what people want. Just tell me why i bought the expensive vista ultimate. I bought it to be sure that every upgrade made for vista is free to download. Don't be so greedy and arrogant and let people see that you have the best intention for vista users, and give them what the expect to get, upgrades like VMC TV pack and better support for the europe users like HDTV and DVB-C also for europe and other countries. Don't only look at America-en users. I only can say a hard Booeeee for the decision you make and made for VMC TV pack.

    August 26, 2008 10:04 AM
  • Juergen said:

    Shame on you, Microsoft.

    - disappoint tester

    - dissatisfied customers  

    - deceived Vista Ultimate user

    - incomplete product (DirecTV, H.264)

    - overlooked incompatibility

    - incompetent decision maker

    Best will be a official second version before Windows 7.

    August 29, 2008 4:56 AM
  • pip said:

    Right said, Juergen.

    August 29, 2008 5:42 AM
  • Richard Boyle said:

    OEM System builders eh? Not all of them are equal. What Microshaft means by this are companies like HP and Dell. Small stres like the one I own are about to get shafted again despite the fact that is people like us who actually give proper customer support to products like this. We work with all the local home theatre companies  because we know what we are doing. The box stores who sell the other stuff have no idea what they are doing and once they have the customer's (AKA Punter, Rube) money their responsibility ends.

    So thanks Microshaft for right royally screwing up a nice piece of business that I worked hard to develop, with your encouragement,   and thanks for leaving the customers at the mercy of the hordes of semi-fluent english speakers in the Indian sub-continent (That's not a racist comment, but if you've had to deal with as many of them as I have, you'll know exactly what I mean).

    Why don't you get your collective heads out from your collective butts and realize that this is simply going to drive more customers away from your products and into the waiting arms of Apple and Linux

    August 30, 2008 12:31 AM
  • Stuart Buchanan said:

    I have been a Media Center User since 2003 (on a new bought HP PC) and it was at the time the only WF (Wife Freindly) HTPC solution. and it has always been updated with new features, just seems that it is harking back to the old OEM agreements with MCE 2004 and the original, it was a bold step for them opening up to the end user for 2005. but i thought those days were well behind them.

    they dont realise what cash Media Center raises for them as it isnpt raised directly from the Ehome division. for me it was the only reason i purchased 2 Xbox360's (even though the lack ov Divx/Xvid Support Rankles me, and the new MCE extenders do, but still no update) I wasn't interested in games at all, but they have also got thousands in game purchases out of me for this platform. as i thought what the heck :)

    They also havent lost my custom with my WM6 Phone for playing music (I am now on my 5th one), as i would have gone for apple long ago

    This is all generated on the fact that i have Media Center as my main entertainment system. and these integrate well thats why i stay, and not always go with better products, because i prefer true integration.

    But the only thing keeping me MCE was the extenders, but now i can get inexpensive extenders for other HTPC alternatives. and if i leave the MCE fold this residual income will dry up.

    The only reason i have stayed with MCE up to now is because of my existing investment, and that it is now Wife Friendly. but that wont keep me a loyal customer for long, especially since  there is very strong competition.

    I am also a disgruntled Vista Ultimate Customer who bought 5 copies for my home laptops and PC's as i wanted MCE and Domain functionality, and i was a cutomer also looking forward to Ultimate Extra's and the only one i use on a regular basis is Hold Em' poker which is fantastic (But lets face it, it aint that fantastic when thinking what i have paid for it.)

    What are you thinking Microsoft. Looking back over the Last 5 years i have spent over £30,000 in total from all my Media Center PC' incarnations and the other related Hardware/software, with a large portion of that money going to Microsoft, now for microsoft that is chump change,

    but bear in mind i am just a home user (and that is one family) are they that shortsighted and dont know how much other money comes from MCE users (I am an IT consultant, and lots of people in my field of work are AVID MCE users with money to burn.

    I am waiting for the Announcement tommorow and hopefully Roberts NDA is recinded on the same date so i hopefully would like to get his full undisclosed opinion once his NDA is not in effect.

    But the final nail in the coffin for me is, even though i have a nice 50" Widescreen LCD TV in my living room, i still cant watch High Def H.264 encoded content, and even though i like what they have done with the new tuner fuctionality (So What, it is old trick to sage and the like)

    I will be walking away from MCE and related techs unless the announcment at Cedia tells us what they want us to hear as it seems Blueray and HD are the next frontier MCE developers dont seem to want to cross (in the UK anyway) and for far less than the cost of the OEM MCE machine they expect us to buy, i can get fully kitted out with another solution.

    It seems that microsoft think thier dominance with the PC software market will rub off in all arenas, and this looks like one jagged pill to swallow.

    your eternally disgruntled MCE Customer. just need the Wife to agree and a bit of spare time.

    Stuart Buchanan

    September 2, 2008 11:40 AM
  • CEDIA has come and gone, and while Microsoft has put out a press release talking about all of the new

    September 8, 2008 11:17 PM
  • Rob said:

    Bye bye media center, hello sage!

    September 14, 2008 7:26 PM
  • lobbythis said:

    If there is no ClearQAM update to registered users of Vista Ultimate in the near future, then I would suggest Microsoft to be the true pirates.  

    I also wonder if OEMs did not either lobby MS to boost their PC sales or if it was a conspiracy from inception to between OEMs and MS to increase revenues unethically.  I suspect there could even be class-action lawsuits contemplated concerning the implied promise that came with the more expensive Vista Ultimate.

    September 14, 2008 9:10 PM
  • Dan Akers said:

    £15 ($27) for a set-top box providing digital terrestrial TV, a TV guide, subtitles, teletext and interactive services.

    £45 ($82) for a set-top box with two digital tuners, an 80GB HD, a TV guide, subtitles, teletext and interactive.

    £650 ($1,182) for a new PC running Media Center, 4 TV tuners, 750GB HD, TV guide but no subtitles, no teletext, no interactive services and you need an internet connection (£15/$27 per month) for guide content.

    +£100 ($181) to upgrade to Vista Ultimate, to allow me to use my 4 tuners again.  Thanks Microsoft for holding me to ransom.

    Oh, and don't forget an estimated £200 ($364) to replace my 4 digital tuners with shiny new ones that I don't really need, but it's the only legal way I can get the TV pack, which is in turn the only way I can get the full functionality of a £15 set-top box.

    So...

    £15 for a fully-featured digital TV box?

    £650 for a Media Center system lacking in basic features?

    Or £950 for a fully-featured Media Center system?

    Microsoft: shame on you.  This should have been nothing more than a Windows Update.  Many of us invested in Windows Vista precisely for the benefits of an improved Media Center.  You could've given us what we deserve: full functionality.  Instead, you've given with one hand (MHEG/interactive/teletext), taken with the other (our money for new hardware to obtain the TV pack in the first place) and bribed us (upgrade to Vista Ultimate if you want to use your 4 tuners again).

    This well and truly sucks, and Microsoft is clearly now way to big to give a stuff about us users.

    Quite happy to hear from Microsoft if they'd care to reply: danakers.creative(at)googlemail.com [email address disguised to prevent spammers!].

    If I do perchance receive a miracle (reply) from MS, I'll gladly share their thoughts with you all.

    September 18, 2008 9:09 AM
  • pip said:

    I couldn't agree with you more Dan Akers. Also this TV pack is to meet the needs for european costumers. TV pack can also be used with DVB-S and DVB-T. And now Microsoft thinks that everyone in Europe rushes to the media-stores to buy a brand new, expensive media center PC and throw away there old one. Yea, right.

    They think this is the way to get there foot between the door so that they also get a piece of the home entertainment market instead of only Sony. I think it is the other way. If people are presented with a beter alternitive, like sage or media portal, or something else they go for that. Or solution's like a TV-box. Nobody pay's that much for just watching TV and record some TV. They only will try it out when it's build in. Vista was a disapointment and now they are also destroying the faith for media center.

    September 19, 2008 5:15 AM
  • ray brooks said:

    Well, I agree with everybody on here that Microsoft shouldn't have screwed us in not offering the WMC update (not even to Vista Ultimate users as an Ultimate extra!). I am running Vista Home Premium on my laptop and Ultimate on my desktop computer and I managed to get the TV Pack Update by means of bittorent. It installed fine on my machines and I like the update. It's dumb that I had to resort to getting the update from bittorrent, but that's how I managed to get it.

    September 23, 2008 10:37 AM
  • Rod said:

    I found this page looking for a way to strip DRM from dvr-ms. Looks like the TV Pack is just another right square kick in the nuts. I am absolutely PISSED about all of this. These bastards don't have any right telling me how long I can keep recordings, what I can record, in what format.. etc. Not to mention that I will probably NEVER get rid of this damn cable box. I just spent $1300 on my first "nice" PC, there's no more money M$!!! Ya hear me!!! You know, I remember as tho' it were a meal ago, there was this cable that came out of the wall, I plugged it in to the TV, the VCR, and (shock! amazement!! miracle of miracles!!!) IT WORKED!!! Amazing!!! Now I gotta get a mind wipe within 30 days of viewing, 15 days if your brain isn't PlayReady certified.

    I HATE these bastards with that special warm and fuzzy hate that I reserve for child molesters, rapists and politicians!!! I'm on the verge here folks! I'm gonna climb someplace high and start shooting people if they don't stop kickin' me in the nadz! (that was some dark humor there for those with sticks in uncomfortable places) This is driving me INSANE!!! All I want is essentially to get the functionality of my vcr back! Ya know, watch one channel, record another, simple right? Nope, old cable boxes that seem to die once a year, one channel at a time, encrypted qam,  and even if it weren't encrypted I gotta spend what to get the 2008 DRM Pack.

    For the love of god somebody crack that damn TV Pack and strip out all this nonsense!!!

    October 7, 2008 3:29 PM
  • IamWarpath said:

    These WTV files are locked down!!!  I hate this new format I can only watch on this one computer.  Give us the ability to takes our recording where we want!

    October 16, 2008 10:53 AM
  • Erwin said:

    Apple is even more tied to hardware than Microsoft is. Tried Ubuntu last week for the third or fourth time in a few years, but again all kind of difficulties with the install already. On a basic Asus barebone. I think Ubuntu is an overrated hype.

    So i have to stick with MCE. But i certainly feel like Microsoft could put much more effort in it than they do now.

    BTW i replaced my Linksys DMA 2200 extender with an XBOX 360. Finally everything works as it supposed to. Linksys sucks!

    October 18, 2008 2:20 AM
  • Sevla said:

    All this looks like a damn joke. I have spend thousands of pounds to build my HTCP box and now this. VMC is a great feature in a great OS, Why TF spoil it? All the features that MS has left behind i was able to workaround it. Blu ray and HDDVD support? Just buy PowerDVD and develop a way to integrate the feature to VMC. I have done it. DVB-S & DVB-S2 support? Just buy DVBViewer and develop a way to integate the feature to VMC. I have done it. CI & CAM support, Teletxt, MHEG... etc, I was expecting MS to sort it out. And then TV Pack 2008 is released only for OEM`s!!!!! OMFG. WHAT`S THIS ALL ABOUT???? And wait there`s more, TV Pack 2008 supports DVB-S, MHEG, Teletext... and could support HD playback either by media (blu ray & hddvd) or streaming (DVB-S2) if MS wanted but that maybe will come with "Windows 8"...but i will have to upgrade to a spanking brand new computer. Are they out of their minds? I bought one copy of Windows Vista Ultimate just to built my HTPC and another for my desktop PC. How could i be so dumb??? And better yet, it BREAKS functionallity in add-ons that developers damn sure spent hours developing and giving support, to improve the "Windows Vista Media Centre Experience" "WOW" just for what? The satisfaction of doing something for the community, a few donations trought PayPal, and for MS to FREAKING BREAK them up. All this end`s up with me the end user. WMC now to me is nothing more than a shiny jukebox and slideshow machine that happens to play dvd`s and receives SD television. No more money from me MS.

    October 18, 2008 11:58 AM
  • Craig said:

    Having bought a couple of copies of Ultimate and having a HTPC with Home Premium, I quite frankly can't see what benefit I get from ultimate. Could someone explain as the extras don't seem to be there or of any f'ing use to anyone.

    The idea that the WMC community on thegreenbutton have been asking for features for months if not years and yet this is going to not be available to the community that uses it on a daily basis. Multiple tuners is something that makes the application perfect outside of the US where set-top boxes have to be connected via s-video cables. The suggestion that one needs to buy a new OEM unit to get this seems pretty p!ss poor when I, like many people paid for the extras.

    Anyway, guess I better search for the install files, because, ironically it's available to the OEM's, not as a part of the latest RTM OS disk, but as a standalone update package. I'm sure someone must have posted it and the PlayReady runtime to go with it.

    Cheers

    October 26, 2008 8:45 PM
  • Dale said:

    The only sliver lining in this dark gray cloud is that the bits for TV Pack seem to be easily available on the net and they work with no problems on those PCs where they have been applied as an upgrade to existing Premium or Ulitmate systems.  The lack of the ability to edit .mtv files or view them anywhere else is a sin that MS could still correct if MS cared to.

    November 8, 2008 4:45 PM